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Expert Panel on Corrections Reform Offers California a Roadmap for Reducing Recidivism and Overcrowding

Panel’s Recommendations Could Reduce Population Significantly

SACRAMENTO – As part of the state’s commitment to comprehensive prison reform, a panel of national experts advising the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has released a report titled “A Roadmap for Effective Offender Programming in California.” The report was commissioned by the California State Legislature, and provides recommendations for improving the state’s rehabilitation model, as well as strategies to significantly reduce recidivism and overcrowding.

“The expert panel’s report will serve as a tool for implementing the historic corrections reforms that were signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger this year,” said CDCR Secretary James Tilton. “The panel’s innovative work provides a cutting edge roadmap to reduce overcrowding and bring California up to speed with other states.”

The report recommends new models for in-prison rehabilitation programs, risk assessment tools for analyzing parole revocation decisions, and other methods to reduce recidivism and end the perpetual overcrowding crisis the state has faced in recent years. The report suggests that if all of the panel’s recommendations were adopted, California could significantly impact overcrowding and reduce its inmate population. The population reductions could result in estimated annual savings of $561 to $684 million after considering the additional investment costs for rehabilitation facilities and programs.

“The key to reducing the number of inmates who return to prison lies in matching the needs of individual inmates to evidence-based rehabilitation programs,” said expert panel co-chair, and rehabilitation strike team member Dr. Joan Petersilia. “Preparing offenders for a crime-free and successful life upon release will ultimately improve public safety.”

”The expert panel’s report will be an invaluable tool for the strike teams and CDCR policy implementers,” said expert panel chair and Chief Deputy Secretary of Adult Programs Marisela Montes. “The roadmap will allow the state to accelerate plans to carry out the department’s renewed mission of rehabilitation.”

The CDCR Expert Panel on Adult Offender Reentry and Recidivism Reduction Programs is comprised of some of the best and brightest minds on corrections and rehabilitation from across the country. Members were chosen for their broad experience in rehabilitation, education, correctional administration, psychology, and organizational development. The panel’s recommendations are based on scientific research and evidence and reflect the best practices used by correctional agencies in other states.

The expert panel made 11 key recommendations. Some relate to areas that are being addressed through AB 900, the comprehensive reform package signed into law in May 2007. Others seek additional legislation, while some suggestions may be accomplished administratively.

Summary of Key Expert Panel Recommendations:

Recommendation 1 – Reduce overcrowding in prison facilities.

Recommendation 2 – Enact legislation to expand positive reinforcements for offenders who complete rehabilitation programs and follow the rules. CDCR must improve on matching offender needs with program objectives.

Recommendation 3 – Select and utilize a risk assessment tool to assess an offender’s risk to reoffend. Risk assessments tools have been utilized for parolees, and should be expanded to assess all offenders.

Recommendation 4 – Determine offender rehabilitation programming based on the results of assessment tools that identify and measure risks and needs. CDCR should develop and utilize a risk-needs matrix to assign offenders to programming.

Recommendation 5 – Create and monitor a behavior management (or case) plan for each offender. Case plans are critical to assigning offenders to the right programs.

Recommendation 6 – Select and deliver a core set of programs for offenders that cover major offender areas. These include: academic, vocational and financial; alcohol and drugs; anger management; criminal thinking; family; and sex offenses.

Recommendation 7 – Develop systems and procedures to collect and utilize programming process and outcome measures. This will allow CDCR to determine the effectiveness of programs, reasons for outcomes, and ways to improve.

Recommendation 8 – Continue to develop and strengthen formal partnerships with community stakeholders. This will improve coordination of transition services for offenders moving from prison to their home communities.

Recommendation 9 – Modify community based programs to ensure they target the crime patterns of offenders, meet their basic needs upon return, and identify risk factors in their home community.

Recommendation 10 – Engage the community to help reduce likelihood offenders will return to a life of crime. Critical thinking, positive relationships, and healthy behaviors are critical to offenders’ success upon release.

Recommendation 11 – Develop structured guidelines to respond to technical parole violations, based on risk and seriousness. Sanctions and incentives are important tools.

A list of panel members and the panel’s full report, A Roadmap for Effective Offender Programming In California, is available on CDCR’s website,

CDCR Expert Panel Final Report